CD: Hive Records HIV.09 [2004]
Ltd x 200

Button Machines
Minty Tasty
Near Perfect
City Lights
Very Untitled
Dream Again
Get Unchanged
Sounds Wonderful
Rockstrongo (Displacer Remix)

My previous experience of Hive Records consisted of the industrial onslaught of Exclipsect and Kaebin Yield [see Symbiosis review] so I was somewhat taken by surprise by Tekniq's laid-back ambience. I have nothing against ambient music, even 'ambient music' in the sense that most normal, well-adjusted people mean, but I can't help feeling that "Shazbut!" is a rather conservative, backward-looking solution to the ambient problem. No envelopes are pushed, no uncharted territories are explored, and very few musical boundaries are actually dissolved; the album's 18 original tracks and one remix all do their thing very competently indeed, with plenty of compositional finesse and a delicately-balanced arrangement giving rise to a pleasant interplay of melody and atmosphere, but it is basically the same thing that they are doing, and it is a thing that has been done many times before.

Tekniq main-man Mike Savelli's thing is very much based on keyboards and acoustic instrument sounds playing dreamy, spacious chillout numbers, laudably well-produced, accompanied by electronic percussion, turntable scratches and lush synthesiser sequences, and all touched by the kind of magic-wand engineering that makes it difficult to tell the live instruments from the samplers. The scanty liner notes tell us, for example, that some of the guitars are real, and one might assume that the monastic choir and string quartet are virtual, but between those extremes it all gets a bit uncertain. Different tracks bring different elements to the fore - an acoustic guitar here, an electric piano there, or a fragmentary cluster of human voices coming from somewhere else entirely - but the palette of sounds and the prevailing tone is highly consistent over the whole CD.

The overall effect is somewhat like a sanitised, bleached-white version of Twilight Circus, stripped of its hairier dub-reggae gravitas for an easier-listening audience, and coming off sounding like the kind of background music you used to hear late at night on BBC2, between the educational programmes, or behind the test card with the crayon girl and the clown. I'd like to be more complimentary but it's all just a bit too nice and not quite challenging enough. The drum programming is the one area where Savelli really excels himself, not constantly and overpoweringly, but in occasional subtle snatches, and through some of the shorter tracks like 'Orange', 'Red' and 'Button Machines'.

This is an album that needs to be listened to up-close, as it all just fades into musical wallpaper from a distance, but I wish it was more deserving of the attention.


[Tekniq] / [Hive Records]

Direct Link: http://www.auralpressure.com/review/t/tekniq_shazbut.html